Missouri Tigers

Final Record: 5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC

Missouri’s struggles in its first year in the SEC have been well documented. However, unlike others, I had higher hopes for the Tigers, especially with a mobile quarterback and an electric offense going into the SEC East. In my mind, Missouri would have an easier time adjusting to SEC life than Texas A&M. But it became obvious rather quickly that Missouri was going to struggle, starting against Georgia.

Entering 2012, quarterback James Franklin was one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. Hell, he tore it up last season, totaling 3,846 yards and 36 touchdowns. He sliced through Big 12 defenses like hot butter. However, playing against faster defenses, coupled with the fact that Franklin experienced injuries to this throwing shoulder and knee, it slowed him down enough to be a non-factor running or throwing. Franklin only totaled 1,684 yards – 2,162 yards less than ’11 – and 10 touchdowns, all through the air with seven picks.

If Franklin’s injuries weren’t the killer, the attrition and injuries to the offensive certainly were. During preseason camp, the Tigers had three starters hurt and had to reshuffle their entire offensive line.  Senior Elvis Fisher got hurt early, and freshman Evan Boehm was thrown into the mix. Boehm played well, but freshmen offensive linemen have a tougher time against massive SEC defensive linemen. It was clear the offense didn’t have the depth it needed in the trenches right out of the gate.

Wide receiver was one of the most anticipated positions during preseason, mostly because of freshman Dorial Green-Beckham, but veterans like TJ Moe, Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington were going to be fun to watch, too. But with the struggling offense in full swing, as expected the receivers struggled, too. Moe, Washington and Lucas combined for just six touchdowns, while DGB nabbed five touchdowns himself. You could see DGB really come into his own toward the end of the season.  He has a big future ahead.

One of the few overall bright spots was running back Kendial Lawrence. Lawrence was the entire running game – and offense at times – throughout the season. He totaled 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Defensively, Missouri wasn’t terrible, but they weren’t SEC-ready, merely up and down the entire season. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw carved them up, as did UCF’s Blake Bortels, but the defense also played great games against Florida and Arizona State. This group was one or two big plays away defensively from getting to a bowl game. And the offense certainly didn’t do their part in helping out the defense, either. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and linebacker Will Ebner were monsters, though. Richardson and Ebner both totaled 10.5 tackles for loss each, and Richardson nabbed four sacks. Lineman Kony Ealy also added 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.  Missouri did lead the SEC in forced fumbles with 21.

Overall, with attrition, combined with entering the SEC, Missouri struggled the entire season and could not get into any type of offensive rhythm.

Offensive Stud: One of the few bright spots on the year was running back Kendial Lawrence. The senior eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark and finished with 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. Missouri only had a total of 16 rushing touchdowns on the entire season, but Lawrence was the one consistent offensive player all year. Hell, he was the offense.

Defensive Stud: Sheldon “Old Man Football” Richardson played old man football as evidenced by his play-making ability in the trenches. Richardson was a force in the SEC, living in teams’ backfields for much of the season and causing havoc in every game with his powerful upper body and quickness. He totaled 75 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. Richardson will enter the NFL Draft this spring, and he should be a top-round pick who has tremendous upside.

Where To Next: With the resignation of offensive coordinator David Yost, Gary Pinkel is in a tough spot. He has a decision to make as to the direction of his offense in the future. Yost was a spread guy, but seeing how the spread struggled without a player like Johnny Manziel at the position and the injuries to Franklin, Missouri may go a different direction with the offense. Will Pinkel go away from the spread and turn to more of a pro-style approach in the near future? It will be a defining decision moving forward.

Photo Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports